Democrats, Republicans and St. Paul

Over the last two weeks we saw two political conventions. Each group posturing and pontificating about what they see as wrong in this country of ours and what they see as wrong about their opponents and what they see as solutions to these overwhelming problems. Yes, as a Church we see some of the same problems. We see injustice and poverty and greed. We see all of those things and yet as a Church we do not fall into the trap of believing that simply voting for one candidate or one party will make the world a better place. That is what these conventions basically say, that they can cure the ills of the country and of the world. The Church takes a different approach. The causes of all the problems of the world are found in the human heart. Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” Matt 15:19 Let’s restate that in another way: The cause of all your problems is not the Democrats or the Republicans. Their policies might exacerbate the problems but they are not the source of the problems, we the people are the problem. These politicians won’t be the real and lasting answer to your problems. They might be band aids but they certainly are not cures.

In today’s epistle we hear these words from the Apostle Paul “far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.” What lovely words those are. He doesn’t tell us to find glory in a worldly political party. He doesn’t really care about the politics of the world at all. He isn’t centered around one party’s platform. His politics are centered around the cross. In that one statement we have an answer to our problems. As we’ve seen, the Lord taught that our hearts are the problem. Our hearts can separate us from God. That is the mark of sin in our lives. It separates us from God and from our fellow man. We still haven’t really understood that as a nation and as a people. We continue to support all manner of sin even with our tax payer dollars and then we wonder why we are such a divided, angry and broken people….and make no mistake that we are indeed divided, angry and broken.

St. Paul has a remedy for this. His remedy is the cross of Jesus Christ. Through the cross we see that the Lord has turned the story on it’s head. Instead of being dead to God and alive to the world, he says that by the cross, he has been crucified to the world. He is telling us that the old arguments are no good. They don’t help. They’re useless because Jesus Christ changed the world through the cross. Remember that it is no small thing that the creator of all life was sentenced to death and suffered and died innocently. It reminds us that injustice exists and that God sees every bit of it. It reminds us that injustice is a fact of life.

St. Paul was dealing with a certain kind of “politics” during his ministry. It was the politics of dealing with Jews and gentiles. It was the politics of the circumcised vs the uncircumcised. It was a question about the “proper” way to please God as a Christian. St. Paul didn’t fall into that trap. Here is his answer “For, neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision,” but then he continues by telling us what does count. He says “For, neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” This new creation can refer to the whole world but it certainly refers to the human heart that has accepted Jesus the crucified Lord.

You want to solve the problems of the world? According to St. Paul the way to do that is to live a life of crucifixion. You want to begin to solve problems…try for a while to do what is inconvenient and unpopular in order to honor God’s will. It is what people like Martin Luther King did, and it was after his death that his message became even more powerful. It’s not impossible, St. Paul did it too. He did it because he realized that what God expects from us is clearly seen through the life of the Lord Jesus. We are meant to be pure of heart and clear in our minds. We are meant to be uncompromising in our decision to follow God even if that leads to our own hurt. That’s what it means to follow Christ and accept His cross.

We can begin to follow this way of the cross by asking certain questions daily. Is the activity that I am about to undertake, well pleasing to God or to men? Is my behavior guided by worldly principles and philosophies or by Christian teaching? Have I gone out of my way to help someone who really needs it? Have I gone out of my way to avoid being labeled as a Christian? Have I ever kept quiet when someone did me an injustice? Have I ever suffered silently trusting that God sees my pain and will redeem my difficult situation? Have I ever stared at an icon of the Lord upon the cross and thanked Him for such love? These are just a few of the questions that we might be thinking about as we try to live like St. Paul, who tried to live like the Lord Jesus.

In this season of politics and division, ignore the symbols of the donkey and the elephant and understand that only the Cross united humanity to God and only the cross can unite us, one to another. Glory be to God forever AMEN.

The Reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians 6:11-18

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